I know this is only tangentially related to the topic of presidential war powers, but I think it’s important enough to discuss– the status of Iran’s nuclear program. While the recent deal doesn’t complete halt Iran’s nuclear program, it limits it enough that we can relax, at least a little bit. Even John Kerry says the deal isn’t completely comprehensive, and we still have work to do. But we’re certainly one step closer to resolving these issues and the world is at least a little bit safer now.
Today, Obama announced that he would try to take the diplomatic route on stopping Syria from using chemical weapons , an action proposed by Russia a few days ago. I absolutely commend the president on his attempts to resolve the issues in Syria diplomatically, however, I’m not sure if it will be sufficient to solve the problem. Who’s to say whether the regime will give up its chemical weapons, or if they give up some of them, who’s the say they won’t give up all of them? While getting rid of Syria’s chemical weapons is certainly a good thing, why would that stop the violence occurring there on a daily basis? It seems to simply be a band-aid solution to an underlying problem.
I honestly don’t know if I think we should intervene in Syria or not. On the one hand, I think that the violence happening there needs to be stopped before it erupts into something that destabilizes the entire Middle East, but on the other, I think about our past failed interventions in the Middle East which only resulted in worse violence and postponing problems. I also don’t know if we should support the regime or the rebels. Hell, I don’t think we even have a clear idea of who has the chemical weapons and who used them. Certain sources say the rebels have them, and other sources say the regime in Syria have and used them. It’s a massive mess with no clear solution.
And I fear that we are running out of time to make a decision. Obviously the daily killings and the current death toll is inexcusable, but I fear that Syrian instability would spill over to cause instability in the greater Middle East. If so, tensions between Iran and Israel may ratchet up to the point of no return. Terrorist organizations may get their hands on nuclear weapons and fire them against other nations. Oil prices may fluctuate to create shocks in the global economy.
I don’t know what we should do, or if we should even do anything. But I think that the world needs to figure out how to deal with the situation in Syria as soon as possible.
For those of you who don’t know, Guantanamo Bay is an indefinite detention facility the federal government created after 9/11 in Cuba in order to interrogate suspected terrorists. This article, starting from about half-way down the page, cites the numerous examples of psychological and physical trauma that these prisoners are forced to go through on a daily basis. I definitively agree with the cited expert, Andy Worthington, that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should be shut down.
For starters, torture is morally repugnant. The severe psychological trauma induced from things like repetitive water-boarding, sexual assault, and other disgusting acts are human rights abuses and mentally destroy the person being tortured. The people living in Guantanamo Bay aren’t really living– they may continue to breathe, but they only exist to be tortured and have their psyches decimated. It’s atrocious.
Second, It’s illegal. Like, really really illegal. The Geneva Convention clearly indicates that torture is never okay, even upon enemy combatants. Thus, the United States, the arbitrator of international human rights and law, has been violating ILaw for the last 10 years. Being contradictory isn’t just annoying. It directly contributes to preventing the US from stopping other regimes from doing really bad things (page 13 to be exact; this article only talks about Russia, but other actors, such as China and Iran, have justified some bad policies because we violate ILaw). We are directly contributing to the destruction of the Rule of Law.
Third, we don’t even know that the detainees in the facility are terrorists– in fact, of the 166 detainees still at Gitmo, 50-60 of them have already been cleared for release. That means that even if torture is justified to get information out of the prisoners (which it’s not), the torture policies that we implement are largely ineffective. And even if everyone in the facility were terrorists, torture doesn’t work— besides the reasons cited in that link, there have been numerous instances of people admitting to doing something they didn’t do in an effort to stop being tortured. This false information prevents us responding accurately to a new terrorist threat that we tried to stop before.
It’s time that we closed down Gitmo.